(Photo by Danny Fulgencio)

(Photo by Danny Fulgencio)

Ticking through time

You want to see Lakewood get into a tizzy? Try messing with a piece of our history. We’re one of the older neighborhoods in Dallas and we like to keep it authentic — just look to the hundreds who came out to protect the Lakewood Theater last year.

The clock that ticked above the Lakewood Shopping Center may not have quite as rich a history, but it was a charming piece of neighborhood character that was sorely missed when it was removed in 2013. No one can remember exactly when the clock stopped working, but that was the year that Lincoln Property Company, which owns the center, planned to have it fixed. By 2014, however, the outline of the clock on then-tenant Dixie House was an ugly reminder that nothing had been done. Lincoln eventually put back the broken mechanism, but it would sit fallow for another two years until a new owner brought it back to life.

When Sugarbacon Proper Kitchen opened, the management knew it was buying into a historic spot and wanted to pay homage to the building’s legacy. On the advice of Preservation Dallas, they contracted Ron Siebler, who won five Preservation Achievement Awards in 2016 for his work to protect local history.

“I make my living as a residential remodeler because I like to eat too much,” he jokes. “But my passion is historic restoration.”

He’s part of a dying breed, an era where we didn’t toss and replace broken items — we actually tried to fix things.

“My parents were children who grew up in the depression and believed you didn’t just get rid of useful things,” Siebler says. “I’ve had a hammer or a wrench in my hand practically since I was born.”

Like much of his generation, he’s entirely self-taught. His experience comes from tinkering, trial and error, and apprenticeship. He was 8 the first time he worked on a clock, a busted one he found in his grandparent’s basement, where all items in need of repair ended up.

“I was successful at getting it apart,” Siebler laughs, “I was not successful at getting it back together.”

It’s all part of the learning process, which eventually led him to win awards for his repairs of more iconic items like the Renner church bell in Farmers Branch Historical Park, or the Dallas Heritage Village MKT Depot. When the folks at Sugarbacon called last summer, he was happy to oblige.

It all begins with research — Siebler is ferocious in his efforts to understand an item’s history to ensure his restoration will be as authentic as possible. First assembled in September of 1984 by the National Time & Signal Corporation in Wixom, Mich., Siebler suspects the clock was installed around the same time.

“What everyone now refers to as the iconic Lakewood Shopping Center Clock, a.k.a. the Dixie House Clock, was most likely installed in late 1984, as that is when Corrigan Properties, one of the three original developers of Lakewood Shopping Center, did a substantial renovation to the property, including the stucco facade with clay tile roofing that we see there today,” Siebler says.

But he wanted to confirm, so he tracked down the family who owned Sound Warehouse, the business that occupied the space before Dixie House. They had no memory of a clock on their building, further supporting the 1984 installation date.

Luckily, the clock’s original manufacturer was still in business, an invaluable source of parts and expertise, Siebler says. But other questions were more difficult to answer — specifically what color should the neon arms glow?

“I saw the clock in an old Advocate photo, that’s how we knew the neon was red,” he says.

Once he had all the information needed, he got the go-ahead to begin work in November from the team at Sugarbacon, which funded the restoration out of pocket at a cost of more than $8,000. It took only a few weeks, Siebler brought the pieces to his Lake Highlands workshop and put the Lakewood Shopping Center clock back together again. After a few tests to ensure it would keep ticking, he installed the newly refurbished clock just after Christmas.

It’s glowing red-and-white design now lights up a little corner of the sleepy shopping center, giving it a vintage glam look. “It’s all gears and motors so it’ll need to be oiled twice a year,” he says. “As long as it gets that, it should last a very long time.”

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